Friday, July 21, 2006

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I've been told that there is a certain prayer that God loves to hear and answer. I know that prayer well and I think you might know it too. But, for a long time, that has been my only prayer- "God, please, help me". There are times when life hurts so bad that we can't seem to find words for our prayers. Sometimes we are not even sure what to pray for, but we know that we must pray. So we pray, "Help me."

A few days ago, in a moment of grief, I prayed my all too familiar prayer.

"God, please, help me".

In my heart I sensed God reply, "How would you like me to help you?"

This stopped me cold. I seriously pondered, just what am I asking God to do when I pray, "God, help me." What answer or miracle action am I expecting? Do I simply want the pain to go away? Do I want a miracle cure? Do I want a lightening bolt from heaven to direct my path? None of the above were quite right. It came down one thing and only one thing. My help me prayer was really asking, "God, please make it as if these things never happened." So I adjusted my prayer. I made it more specific. I told God what I meant and what I truly wanted.

"God, Please make it as if these things never happened."

This became my new prayer.

I didn't hear a voice. I didn’t need to hear a word. I heard the impossibility of my request as the plea left my lips. I pictured God sadly explaining that He doesn't usually do that sort of thing and I shouldn't get my hopes up.

That wasn't the answer I wanted. I was hoping for some cure, some eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. I wanted to find a company or service where a trained technician could carefully erase all memories of this hurt and disappointment from my mind and heart. So, it would seem as if these things had never happened. Or better yet, I wanted time turned back and history changed. Where were the experts who could make things better? Where is the all-powerful God who can do all things? Is there any help for me? How can I ever get over this and live my life as if this never happened? Reality Check: I can't and no one else can do it for me.

I am coming to accept that what I want is not possible. It is not possible for me to change the course of events that have brought me here. It is not possible to erase these memories from my heart and mind. It is not possible for the most enlightened doctor or therapist. Whether God can or could turn back time or erase memories, I don't know. But, I'm pretty sure that God doesn't to do this sort of thing.

Acceptance of the unacceptable is where I dwell. I can't keeping asking God to turn back time and make things as if this tragedy never happened. No matter how many more times I ask, it will never happen. God has great patience, but I'm fairly sure that after awhile my request to change history would become annoying- even for God.

Enter a new way of thinking: Could I search my heart and see if there are other things for which I could pray? Things I would want, even if I couldn't have what I really wanted. So I decided to try and make a list. I didn't think I would have much on my list. Really, was there anything else I would want if I couldn't reroute the course of history? When I finally sat down and started the list I was amazed at the things that poured out on the paper. I keep the list in my wallet and pull it out often when I can't find the words beyond, "God, help me".

Things I can pray for:

God, help me:

• To know you will and do your will.
• To get better rather than remain bitter.
• To heal my broken heart/life.
• To pray that Teri might be well and connected to God.
• To help me feel the pain and let it pass rather than get stuck obsessing about the past.
• To accept that the unacceptable has happened and no one can change it.
• To be a good and loving father and grandfather.
• To be a good pastor and preacher.
• To be close to God and have a hunger for God's word.
• To learn how to be alone without being lonely.
• To love and be loved.


Debbie said...

Sounds like you're working steps 1-3, the basic moves for dancing with (not against) God. Glad you are whispering in one another's ears, just like intimate dance partners do.

Christy said...

As for your last prayer, you are very loved!

mustdye said...

Very nice Steve.

I always find myself being thankful for the life that I have and praying that others have a good time too.

**To learn how to be alone without being lonely.**

I think that was the hardest for me.

Anonymous said...

This is ancient Greek poetry, not Christian, but it really spoke to me several years ago.

"God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer...And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our despair - against our will - comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."


Heather said...

This is a very nice entry!

chris e. said...

Thank You Steve.
This is helpful to me.